Cyberattacks know no geographical boundaries. In the past two years alone, the University Hospital Brno in the Czech Republic suffered a cyberattack during the covid-19 pandemic, forcing the medical facility to reroute patients and postpone surgery; South Africa’s major electricity supplier, City Power, fell victim to a ransomware attack, leaving many of Johannesburg’s residents without power; and Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant, became the target of a cyber-extortion attempt.

Nations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are taking note: the European Commission plans to build a Joint Cyber Unit to tackle large-scale cyberattacks. The government of Saudi Arabia launched the National Cybersecurity Authority to enhance the country’s cybersecurity posture. And the African Union has identified cybersecurity as part of its Agenda 2063 for transforming Africa.

To explore the challenges facing today’s cybersecurity teams and the strategies they must embrace to protect the attack surface—the sum of points an unauthorized user can use to gain access to an organization’s systems— MIT Technology Review Insights and Palo Alto Networks conducted a survey of 728 business leaders. The survey was global, with 38% of respondents from Europe and 13% from the Middle East and Africa. Their responses, along with the input of industry experts, provide a solid framework for safeguarding against a growing battalion of bad actors and fast-moving threats.

But organizations themselves can also take critical steps to better understand where attacker entry points are in their information technology (IT) environments in a smart, data-driven manner.

The vulnerabilities of a cloud environment

The cloud continues to play a critical role in accelerating digital transformation. And for good reason: cloud offers solid benefits, such as increased flexibility, cost savings, and greater scalability. Yet cloud-based environments account for 79% of observed exposures, compared with 21% for on-premises assets, according to the “2021 Cortex Xpanse Attack Surface Threat Report.”

That’s concerning, given that 53% of survey respondents in Europe, and 48% of those in the Middle East and Africa, report that more than half of their assets are in the cloud.

“Many companies started their journey to the cloud because it made sense,” says Amitabh Singh, chief technology officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Cortex, Palo Alto Networks’ security operations platform division. But there are pitfalls, too, he says.

“With the cloud, the high wall around organizations’ core assets and infrastructure has melted away. As a result, some of the assets companies thought were secure may be exposed to vulnerabilities.”

Certainly, there are technologies that can bolster cloud security. But Singh says many organizations in Europe have been slow to adopt more innovative tools. “I still see companies struggling with old antivirus and anti-malware platforms,” he says.

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By: MIT Technology Review Insights
Title: IT security starts with knowing your assets: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa
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Published Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2021 12:00:00 +0000

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